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Q’s Reviews – May 15, 2017

Snatched.   Amy Schumer (Emily) and Goldie Hawn (Linda) pair up as a mother/daughter duo who goes on a ridiculous adventure to Ecuador and the Amazon Jungle.  The film is a travesty.  Not funny and embarrassing to watch.  A better use of time would be to watch re-runs of Laugh In.   Emily’s boyfriend dumps her, as they are about to leave for Ecuador on vacation.  Emily convinces her paranoid mother, Linda to travel with her instead.  Of course they get kidnapped and their insane escapade begins.  Rated R for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout.

A Quiet Passion.   If you love wit and language, then you will love this film.  It is a tribute to Emily Dickinson, her poetry and her passions.   It is also an antidote to our frenzied, fast and digital world.  The pace of life in the mid nineteenth century is marvelous as people took the time to speak with another, discuss issues and share their hearts.  The film has the rich glow of a candlelit Victorian drawing room and at times seems like a painting.  Cynthia Nixon is amazing as Emily Dickinson.  She captures Emily’s spunk and her dedication to her family and to her writing.  In her poetry Miss Dickinson’s passion for women’s rights and equality sound a clarion for later generations.   The story of Emily Dickinson from her early days as a young schoolgirl to her later years as a reclusive unrecognized poet makes for an interesting film.  Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images and brief suggestive material.

Q’s Movie Reviews – May 8, 2017

The Dinner.   Richard Gere (Stan) is the top named star, but it is Steve Coogan (Paul), as his brother who appears to be the main attraction in the beginning.  With a surprising American accent, Paul spouts cynical disdain for his life and those others in it.  Paul and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney) are preparing for a dinner with Stan and his wife, Kate (Rebecca Hall) at a super expensive, snobbish restaurant. The brothers’ relationship is stormy with all sorts of unrequited issues.  Stan is running for governor, Paul is obsessed with the battle of Gettysburg, past insults are revisited, their children get involved in a crime that leads to a moral dilemma and everyone starts shouting and grandstanding all while a phenomenal meal is served.  Stan dominates the second half of the film, as the dilemma is a simple matter for him.  If mental illness, manipulation, family conflict and schizophrenia are your thing, then check this one out.  Performances are great, content is turgid.  Rated R for disturbing violent content, and language throughout.

Norman.  Richard Gere is Norman Oppenheimer, a self styled macher who is really just a finagler.  Norman wanders the streets of Manhattan trying to introduce people and make a deal.  He dresses well, has classy business cards and is always on his cell phone trying to introduce people who he does not know to ones he hardly does know.  He befriends Eshel, a young Israeli politician who is need of a friend.  A few years later, Eshel becomes the Prime Minister of Israel and both of their lives are forever changed.  This film is a marvelous character study.  Gere makes us root for Norman even though he is delusional.  The supporting cast of characters is just fun to watch as they interact with Norman and they want to believe him too.  Rated R for language.

Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent.   This intriguing documentary follows the life and career of Celebrity Chef, Jeremiah Tower.  His unusual childhood of distracted but indulgent parents led to his love of food and cooking.  His first success at Chez Panise in Berkeley started during the riots and sexual revolution of the 1970s.  He followed that with his own Stars Restaurant in San Francisco during the “greed-is-good” of the 1980s.   At his peak, he disappears for years.  He briefly reappears in 2014 in Manhattan only to retreat again.  We meet him in his self-imposed exile in Mexico and get to know the man – a little.  He narrates the film himself with insightful commentary. Tower’s influence on modern foodie movements is clear.  He changed the way we eat.  Fine this gem and enjoy.  Rated R for language.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

Q’s Reviews – May 1, 2017

The Circle.    Big Brother (Tom Hanks) gets his comeuppance when he runs up against Big Sister (Emma Watson).  George Orwell’s 1984 deserved a much better update.  There is plenty to worry about with computers taking over our lives, the loss of privacy and social networking taking the place of real human interaction.  This film is just a trite attempt to scare us with the ultimate evil computer network.  Too bad because it is a timely theme, but The Circle is just one big cliché with a holey plot.  Rated PG-13 for a sexual situation, brief strong language and some thematic elements including drug use.

How To Be A Latin Lover.   The film is a showcase for Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez whose comic antics are quite funny.  Eugenio plays Maximo who as a boy wanted to grow up to be a gigolo.  His sister Sara (Salma Hayek) wanted to be an architect.  They both achieved their life goals.  But Maximo is dumped by his sugar-mama after 25 years of marriage.  His only skill is seducing rich older women but now penniless (good pre-nup) he has to move in with his sister and her young son.  Maximo gets involved in all sorts of crazy adventures including making a play for a disarming Raquel Welch.  Needles to say, Maximo’s charm and basic good nature win the day as he learns the value of family.  Rated PG-13 for crude humor, sexual references and gestures, and for brief nudity.  In English and Spanish with subtitles as needed.

Their Finest.   A British period drama that is good as it gets.  Set in 1940 as the blitz is beginning Gemma Arterton is Catrin Cole a secretary who is given the opportunity to write a screenplay for a movie.  She is hired to tell the story of the war from a woman’s perspective.  It is the story of twin girls who attempted to use their boat to rescue soldiers from Dunkirk.  The film is to be propaganda to get the British to rally to the cause and even to entice America into the war.  The film is about the collaborative process to create a script and a good film.  But it is also a bittersweet love playing out against changing roles of women and the dread of the blitz.  The film has great comic moments with Bill Nighy as an aging actor who is quite a fusspot.   Rated R for some language and a scene of sexuality.  Find this one and enjoy.  It is a Peggy’s pick.

Q’s Reviews – April 24, 2017

The Lost City of Z  This film is an overly long period piece that combines Downton Abbey and Cannibals.  Based on the real life story of British adventurer, Percy Fawcett, who explored the Amazon River in the early 1900s.  He is on the scent of a heretofore-unknown civilization that may have been quite advanced and is now lost to the jungles of the Amazon.  The British establishment gives him a big harrumph but he perseveres with the support of his wife and family.  He returns to the treacherous Amazon several times trying to prove his case but never returns from his last trip in 1925.  He never solved the mystery.   Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some native nudity.

Colossal.   This bit of craziness may become a cult classic.  It mashes up sci-fi, horror and romantic comedy genres into a Ménage à trois of sorts.   Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a drunken mess.  She is self-destructive and when her boyfriend throws her out she returns to her hometown in a vain attempt to start over.  She falls in with an old school chum, Oscar (Jason Sudekis), who runs the local bar and is also an abusive drunk.   As all of this is going on, a mega-monster is wrecking Seoul, Korea.  Gloria discovers that she is one with the monster especially when drunk.  It gets even worse as Oscar gets into the act as a maniacal robot.  Somehow this all makes sense in its own very weird way.  As Oscar and Gloria sort out their strained relationship there are some first class guffaws.  The film is full of holes but also full of charm.  Rated R for language and non-stop drinking.

The Promise The Armenian genocide at the dawn of World War I is the focus of this hard-hitting film.  It is also a love story of tremendous depth and impact.   Mikael (Oscar Isaac) is an Armenian medical student in Constantinople.  Though betrothed, Mikael meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) at his Uncle’s house and is smitten.  Ana is with American journalist Chris (Christian Bale).  He is sending home the first reports of the genocide.  Mikael and Chris vie for Ana’s heart.  But as World War I starts the Ottoman Empire sides with Germany and begins the “relocation” of the Armenians, which is the euphemism for extermination.  Mikael, Chris and Ana work together to save thousands of Armenians but pay a price.  Their story is powerful, especially against a backdrop of total misery as they are hunted down by the Turks.  Rated PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Based on the bestselling book of the same name, the film brings to life the hurt and the pride as a family discovers what really happened to cells harvested from their mother in 1951.  Henrietta died of cervical cancer in 1951.  Her cancer cells were the first cells discovered that were immortal and could be kept alive indefinitely outside of the human body.  Known as HeLa, this strain of cells gave birth to modern medical research and lead to the polio vaccines, AIDS treatments and much more.  Henrietta was from a poor, black family and her family was not advised of what happened for many years.   Her children, spouse and other relatives bare their souls as they tell Henrietta’s story and their own stories, which are all intertwined.   Oprah Winfrey as the daughter, Deborah Lacks, delivers a strong and nuanced performance that is heart breaking.  Available on HBO and rated TV-MA.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

Q’s Reviews – April 17, 2017

The Fate of the Furious.   The film is completely ridiculous but great fun to watch all of the impossible chases and spectacular crashes.  This is the eighth installment in the series with the well-known characters and actors.  This one starts with an amazing road race through the streets of Havana.  The implausible plot starts as the slinky Cipher (Charlize Theron) converts Dom (Vin Diesel) to the dark side and the craziness begins.  Cipher has endless schemes and prowess as she seeks to rule the world.  Then all of the good guys have to save the day while thousands of cars are destroyed and even a Russian Nuclear Submarine is blown up in the icy wasteland of the Artic.  Order is restored and the family is back together again.  Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.

Tommy’s Honour.  All golfers in the world will love this movie as a masterful look at golf, its history and legends.  Non-golfers will enjoy its absorbing stories of father and son relationships and true love.  The film is based on the real story of the beginnings of Golf in St. Andrews, Scotland.  The early game of golf was quite primitive by today’s standards and involved a lot of betting.  Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom Morris, were caddies, greens keepers, club makers and players who created the modern game and dominated the early open championships.  Their story is also incredibly sad and poignant as great success also endured great tragedy.  Rated PG for thematic elements, some suggestive material, language and smoking.  Find this one and enjoy.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

Paterson.  The film is a somber reflection on the joys and setbacks of an ordinary life.  Even ordinary life can give rise to poetry as simplicity is examined.  Adam Driver is a young man named Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey.  His daily routine is precise as he gets up every morning, kisses his wife, has the same breakfast, takes his lunch, goes to work, drives a bus, comes home to his wife, walks his dog and has one beer at the local bar.  Paterson is a sharp observer of his environs and uses his keen eye to write poetry.  He keeps his poems to himself despite the efforts of his wife to have him share them.  His routine is upset and the film leaves us wondering what will happen next.   The film seems to be a simple contemplation but it is rich in imagery that will keep you intrigued and wanting more.  If waterfalls, harlequin guitars, shadows, designer cupcakes, Haikus, creative art and wisdom are of interest, check out Paterson.  Rated R for some language.

Q’s Reviews – April 10, 2017

Ghost In A Shell.   This film is a confusing mess.  The only reason to buy a ticket is to enjoy Scarlett Johansson’s obvious charms.   Sometime in the future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is injured and her body is destroyed but her brain is saved.  She is then cyber mated with an enhanced body that makes her the perfect soldier.  She is assigned to wipe out the most dangerous criminals.  Terrorism is now rampant as the terrorists can now hack into people’s minds and take them over.  Major is uniquely able to thwart the new terrorists. But she must also confront her past and divine who are the real bad guys.  With cartoon like efficiency Major eradicates the bad guys and makes the world a better place.  Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images.

Your Name.  This Japanese anime is a most unusual and quite enchanting teenage love story and coming of age parable.  Mitsuha is the daughter of a small town mayor.  She’s an independent high school girl who lives with her sister and her grandmother.  She dreams of leaving her dull village and moving to the bright lights of Tokyo.  Taki is a high school boy in Tokyo who works part-time in a restaurant and hopes to become an architect or an artist.  He has strange dreams where he becomes a high school girl in a small mountain town – Mitsuha.  Mitsuha has similar dreams and she and Taki connect through their dreams – but are they dreams?  A pending disaster from a comet strike brings them even closer together.  This is a magical, whimsical look at life through the eyes of teenagers whose lives are constantly changing.  This film has been a huge hit in Asia and is worth finding.  We saw it in an English dubbed version, which I would recommend.   Rated PG for thematic elements, suggestive content, brief language, and smoking.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

Going in Style.  Three old dudes rob a bank and we get a lot of good laughs.  Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) are life long friends whose pensions are gone, their savings are depleted and social security is not enough.  They decide to rob the bank that liquidated their pensions.  Since they don’t know how to rob a bank they enlist a mentor and pull off one clever bank heist.  The film does not use one usual gimmick but is instead fresh and inventive as we root for these old coots to make it work.   These three old guys are assisted by Ann-Margret and Christopher Lloyd who make the experience even better.  This is a good old-fashioned fun time at the flicks.  Enjoy it.  Rated PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

Gifted.  A nice and enjoyable story about how to raise a child.  Frank (Chris Evans) is a single man raising his precocious seven-year old niece, Mary (Mckenna Grace).  Her mother has died and the father has split.  Mary and Frank live in a small town in Florida known for its Palmetto bugs.  Mary is not just precocious but a math genius.   Frank and his late sister want a normal school life for Mary who is starting first grade in her local school.  But Mary’s math talents become known to her distant grandmother, who now wants Mary in a gifted school and to separate Frank and Mary.  The lawyer in me bristled as the legal proceedings are a travesty, but that’s not what the film is about.  The film is about the bond between Frank, Mary and their formidable landlady, Roberta (Octavia Spencer).  The film is a fun experience as what is best for Mary is achieved, but in a rather theatrical way.  Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some suggestive material.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

Q’s Reviews – April 3, 2017

CHIPS.   A comic remake of the old TV show would have been a great idea without a fixation on all things scatological.  Officer Jon Baker (played by writer/director Dax Shepard) and Officer “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña) are rookie California Highway Patrol (CHP) motorcycle cops in Los Angeles.  Jon is a washed up pro motor biker trying to get his act together and get back together with his unfaithful wife.  Ponch is really an undercover FBI agent investigating a string of armored car heists.  They are teamed together and immediately clash.  Jon is an idiot who consistently lucks out and Ponch is reminiscent of Pancho from the Cisco Kid.   Implausible and impossible chases and crashes dominate the film as they finally corner the bad guys and blow everything up.  A travesty.  Rated R for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use. |

The Sense of an Ending.  Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) is in his sixties and begins to reminisce about his life and how he got where he is.  Still connected to his ex-wife and helping their daughter through her solo pregnancy, he is haunted by a school chum who committed suicide when they were students together.  He reaches out to an old flame (Charlotte Rampling) to clear the air but only muddies the water.  This film is quite a character study of people dealing with unintended consequences.  When the truth is revealed, growth happens and Tony settles in to his life.  The performances in this British drama are reason alone to see it.  Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, a violent image, sexuality and brief strong language.

The Zookeeper’s Wife.  The film tells the real story of Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) who ran the Warsaw Zoo in the 1930s. It is an idyllic life until September 1, 1939 when the Nazi’s invade Warsaw, close the zoo and begin forcing the Jews of Warsaw into the ghetto.  The Zabinskis undertook a wild scheme to save Jewish families and saved hundreds of people during the German occupation.  They survive the war and reestablish their beloved Zoo.  They were awarded the Polish Righteous Among Nations by the Israeli government for their heroism.  The film is beautifully crafted and inspiring.  Check it out.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.  Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking.

After The Storm.  This is a Japanese movie that can be summed up simply “listen to your mother’s wisdom”.  Ryota wallows in past glory as an author and now wastes his meager earnings as a private detective on gambling.  He can’t even make his small child support payments.  His father has died.  His aged mother seems to be adjusting well in her tiny apartment.  Ryota’s charming ex-wife and son are moving on with their lives.  They are all stuck together in his mother’s small apartment as a typhoon rages outside.  Ryota sees what he has lost and tries to reconnect with his family.  His mother tells stories of their pasts and provides incredible insight into why they are the way they are and how they can and must improve.  This is a small, intimate and brilliant film.  Search it out.  In Japanese with English subtitles.  Suitable for the whole family.

Hamilton.  Absolutely brilliant.  The hype about this play does not do it justice.  It is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece and the best musical we have ever seen.  The story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers is brought to life through modern rap music, clever staging, masterful choreography and dramatic themes woven throughout the play.  The cast is an ensemble that supports one another and seamlessly moves in out of different characters – a foppish Thomas Jefferson is inspired.  An ingenious bit of comic relief is the appearances of King George III who has a message for his subjects.   It is at the Orpheum in San Francisco through August 5, 2017.  It is a must see.  Tickets are available at a steep price.  This production begins a National Tour after it leaves San Francisco.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.